The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) introduced rules requiring telecoms operators to more effectively tailor their customer interactions to deal with vulnerable subscribers.

In a statement, ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin highlighted an audit in 2021 found some operators were not training staff regularly to recognise or deal appropriately with vulnerable consumers.

O’Loughlin explained a new industry Statement of Expectations developed in consultation with industry and consumer groups gives operators a clearer understanding of what is expected of them.

She added the new rules send a message to the industry that people experiencing vulnerability should be supported and not further disadvantaged.

The rules require operators to identify when subscribers are in vulnerable circumstances and put in place relevant practices covering all key aspects of interactions including marketing practices, customer service and providing financial hardship support.

O’Loughlin noted “many Australians will experience vulnerable circumstances” in some form during their lifetime, making it important for operators to have processes in place to recognise and provide appropriate customer care and service to people in these situations.

“The devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and natural disasters such as fires and floods, show just how quickly and unexpectedly people’s circumstances can change.”